Phenomenology of Listening (no. 4): Silence and Resonance – University of Copenhagen

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Phenomenology of Listening (no. 4): Silence and Resonance


It is no coincidence that we often use acoustic metaphors in order to describe the relation between interiority and exteriority. The sense of hearing can be seen as the door to the soul (Johann Gottfried Herder), but it is also essential for a human being’s openness to the external world. Moreover, there is an obvious connection between Vernunft and Vernehmen: according to Helmuth Plessner, the human spirit has its soil and substratum in sensory perception, and thinking is particularly related to listening. While Derrida’s criticism of logo- and phonocentrism assumes an underlying ‘metaphysics of presence’ where ‘thinking to oneself’ means ‘hearing oneself speak,’ we will explore listening as the bond between impression and expression, between call and response, and as one’s link par excellence to the Other. We will concentrate on what eludes the apparent identity between reason, language, and reality.

In a series of lectures and research seminars at CJMC and an ensuing publication, we will develop a multi-disciplinary approach to the phenomenology of listening with an emphasis on the foreignness of the word, voice, or speech experienced by a person who becomes moved and de-centered by more or less harmonious or conflictual events of resonance happening in-between subjectivity and alterity.

Research seminar no. 4 focuses on the relation between silence and resonance. How can silence manifest itself? The basic assumption is that we can only gain access to silence through its respective contexts of communication. Silence can re-sound non-verbally in facial expressions, gestures, atmospheres and the gaps of the unsaid or unsayable in the midst of spoken or written language. Thus, the notion of ‘resonance’ plays a crucial role in the investigation of how we can ‘listen’ to silence and understand its meaning.

We will pay particular attention to those kinds of silence that are due to ruptures in interpersonal relations: loss and grief, life crises and conflicts, traumatic events and incomprehensible experience linked to mental illness. The just-mentioned instances of ‘resounding silence’ will be explored in an interdisciplinary dialogue between philosophy and theology, sociology, psychology and psychiatry.

More information to follow

Everyone is welcome!

Participation is free, but online registration required by August 14, 2018